While the route La Course tracks through France may change every year, one feature remains consistent. The race delivers one of the most exciting finishes of the year, no matter where the finish line is.
In 2019, the race started and ended in Pau, France and Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb) was once again right in the middle of the action. The Canadian was second behind a resurgent Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) in a dramatic sprint finish.
“It means alot,” said Vos about her second victory at La Course. “The first one was five years ago, to win it now again, on a different circuit, is a very special feeling”
With just 350 metres to go, however, the race looked completely different. After attacking from a small breakaway group Australian Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton Scott) was riding alone off the front. A reduced peloton was chasing but, unable to close the gap, it looked like Spratt was clear to ride home solo for the win.
All that remained between Spratt and La Course’s finish line in Pau was a few hundred metres and the 17-percent gradient Rue du Marquis le Béarn.
With time quickly running out, Marianne Vos launched an explosive sprint up Marquis le Béarn’s steep grades, flying past Spratt and immediately opening up a sizable gap to the chasers behind. The three-time world champion is the winner of the sixth edition of La Course. It’s not Vos’s first victory at La Course. The Dutch rider last won the event in 2014, the first year it was held.
Asked after the race about her perfectly timed attack, an exhausted Vos responded “The timing is only right when the legs are good enough.” With Spratt in the break for much of the latter part of the race, both CCC-Liv and Sunweb were forced to do the bulk of the work bringing the Australian back. “I really wanted to do well, I felt good enough but of course the break of Amanda Spratt was pretty dangerous,” Vos said about how the race unfolded. “My teammates had to do alot of work to bring it back. When I saw it came down on the climb I knew I had a chance.
Behind Vos, the race was on for podium positions. Leah Kirchmann emerged from a trio of Sunweb riders in the sprint up the steep gradients to lead out the sprint. On her wheel was Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Biglia). Kirchmann held off the Danish rider to claim second, and return to La Course’s podium for a second time. The last time Kirchmann was on the podium at La Course was 2014 when she finished third, again behind Marianne Vos.
Uttrup Ludwig finished third, ahead of Kirchmann’s teammate Lucinda Brand and CCC-Liv’s Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.
Canadians at La Course
While Kirchmann’s second place was the standout Canadian performance in France, she wasn’t the only Canuck in the race. Seven Canadians started the sixth edition of La Course.
Early in the 121 km race, Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels-Dolmans) was animating the race as part of an early breakaway group of 11. Canuel would go on to finish 39th. Sara Bergen (Rally UHC Cycling) was the next across the line in 84th.
Sara Poidven and Allison Beveridge (Rally UHC), Lex Albrecht (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) and Anna Traxler (Charente-Maritime Women) were all among the many riders to not finish the challenging five lap circuit on Friday.